Consider the following scenarios:
You're driving a car when someone runs a red light, you hit the brakes and the car starts to skid.
You’re sitting home alone when you hear footsteps upstairs.
You live with an abusive partner, and you hear his car pull up.
You are walking down the street in a big city, and you hear gunshots.
Each of these scenarios is an example of a situation that could send our bodies into survival mode. Traumatic or stressful events happen, and they can affect our adrenal health.
When we encounter a traumatic situation a flood of hormones are released. Those hormones lead to physical reactions such as an increase in heart rate, fast breathing, tensing up, or even sweating. These responses are not a bad thing, it is how our body amps itself up to protect us.
If this happens too often for too long, we can develop serious conditions such as chronic fatigue, PCOS in women, hypothyroid, low testosterone in men, or high estrogen in women.
At the moment your body perceives something as stressful your eyes and ears send a signal to the amygdala in your brain. The amygdala interprets the information and sends an urgent message to the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that communicates with your automatic nervous system. This system has two parts, one that responds quickly to danger by releasing adrenaline and the other to slow the body down when the threat has passed.
If the adrenaline subsides and the threat is still imminent, then the HPA axis is activated, and cortisol is released. This keeps the body in a state of awareness. When things start to calm, and your body no longer sees danger the cortisol drops, and everything goes back to normal.
This is how our bodies work naturally, but if we experience trauma our bodies will sometimes continue to release those hormones that leave us in a heightened alert state. This can lead to a variety of issues such as an increase in blood pressure, weight gain, and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Fortunately, there are techniques that can be used to calm the body.
Deep abdominal breathing
Focus on calming words such as: quiet, serene, peaceful
Visualize places that bring you peace
Take brisk walks
Keep friends and family that you feel comfortable with close to you. They can help provide emotional support through hard times.
It is important to note that, while these techniques have been found useful, they may not work for everyone. If you are not finding relief, please seek help from your medical provider.